In Reversal, Burlington City Council Won't Put Noncitizen Voting on Ballot | Off Message

In Reversal, Burlington City Council Won't Put Noncitizen Voting on Ballot


Councilor Adam Roof (I-Ward 8) - COURTNEY LAMDIN
  • Courtney Lamdin
  • Councilor Adam Roof (I-Ward 8)
Burlington city councilors reversed course on Monday and decided against putting on the March ballot a question about giving legal noncitizens the right to vote in local elections.

The council voted 10-2 to refer the item to a council subcommittee for further discussion. City Council President Kurt Wright (R-Ward 4) and Councilor Ali Dieng (D/P-Ward 7) voted no.

City Councilor Adam Roof (I-Ward 8), who championed the ballot item, said it became clear "there was a growing level of misunderstanding and confusion" about noncitizen voting. Some people assumed the ballot item would afford voting rights to undocumented residents, Roof said. Instead, it would have allowed those who come to the country legally — but are not citizens — to vote in municipal elections.

"My personal intention with this motion is to put the initiative in a better position to pass," he said, "and given how the public discussion has developed as of late, I don't believe that this time is this coming March."

Roof hopes the city can revisit the measure on a future ballot.

Burlington last considered noncitizen voting in 2015, but the measure failed at the polls. Proponents of Roof’s measure were optimistic that voters would pass it this year in reaction to President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant stance.

Two noncitizens interviewed by Seven Days earlier this month said they'd appreciate having a say at the ballot box in city matters. Other Burlingtonians, including some prominent Progressive immigrants, said Roof didn't do enough to reach out to immigrants and involve them in the discussion.

"Those who are affected have not shown up,” Dieng said.
After the meeting, Roof said Dieng's assertions were simply untrue. He thinks the idea was shot down before any substantive community dialogue could take place.

Councilor Perri Freeman (P-Central District) said she hopes noncitizen voting can be revisited and appreciates the opportunity for more dialogue.

"I definitely don't want people to be voting on something that they're not really clear on what they're voting on," she said.

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